If you were hoping for a trifecta of titles where the anime and manga are radically different I feel this pick will sadly disappoint you. Flying Witch has a very consistent feel between its various iterations. No matter how your experience Flying Witch you will get a similar relaxed down home feel with vibrant magic, warm friendships , and hilarious family bonding. The manga provides all of this in spades and the anime merely uses the original as a spectacularly solid template.
Flying Witch is the exemplar of magical slice of life shows. It is hardly the first in the genre. Heck most of the original magical girl manga would actually be classified as magical slice of life manga if they were made today. The thing is if you want a title that perfect encapsulates the idea of slice of life with witches then there are few other manga that are so close to a platonic ideal. Other than Makoto and Chinatsu trying to be witches there is nothing even resembling an overarching plot but magic is omnipresent in the manga. This is not Kimagure Orange Road with its almost aggressive disinterest in its super natural aspects. It is a careful balance of the mundanity of country living and fantastical awe of magic. They are seemingly opposite ideas that blend together surprisingly well for a greater whole.
Makoto Kowata has moved out to the country to live with her relatives. Surprise, surprise she is actually a young witch in training. This is a fact she mostly keeps under wraps but is an open secret in the family. Soon her younger cousin Chinatsu also wants to be witch so Makoto slowly introduces her to the world of magic. So begins their journey to becoming full-fledged witches.
If you’re looking for high-powered magical battles and supernatural cabals locked into high stakes intrigue then you reading about the wrong manga. This is more Barakamon with spell casters than Witch Hunter Robin in the countryside. It is a story about pleasant trips to a comfy magical cafe or fantastic flying whale. One day they might go to the woods for reagents another time they might just meet with an amusing fellow witch. These are relaxing stories with a soothing quality of gentle laughs with some heart. The magical elements are just a little spice beyond cute country folk doing cute stuff. Also like all good slice of life shows there is some good discussion of food every few chapters.
The art is very clean and crisp series. It sort of makes me think of what if Kōji Kumeta did a straight forward slice of life comedy instead of his standard sarcastic and twisted fare. The characters are simple but attractive and expressive. But the real detail is saved for the background and magical elements. When it comes to setting mood and place is when the manga really brings out the big guns. But like Barakamon that is the magic formula for most series like this.
Chihiro Ishizuka can easily join Buichi Terasawa, Arco Wada, and Haruko Ichikawa in the Sir Mix-a-Lot Club for Mangka. Like all the other members of the club Chihiro Ishizuka really likes to draw posteriors. It is interesting because Flying Witch never feels like a series drowning in fan service. In fact if you ask most hardcore fans they would tell you that Flying Witch is completely free of fan service but it is actually just a series that shows you how to properly do fan service. You can indulge your fetishes and give a particular set of fans what they want without derailing the atmosphere of the story your trying to tell or alienating other readers.
While the art is very warm they need fun characters to bring them to life. Makoto is a charming goofadoof. She is mostly competent with some ditzy tendencies. She is saved from being a hopeless comic relief character because you get the feeling she has room to grow and even see that happening as the manga progresses. Chinatsu is more energetic and a great way to introduce concepts that would be common knowledge to witches. While she is a lovely person she is distinctly more … mischievous than Makoto. When Chinatsu jokes she should grow up to be a witch who lures foolish children to their doom in the woods you get the impression she is only half kidding.
Kei and Nao are the straight people of the series. Since Kei is also Makoto’s cousin he is fairly well versed in the magical world so he takes this with fairly dry takes and is more of the traditional straight man to the magical antics. Nao is just their mundane friend so she has the more overblown reactions to the oddities they come upon. She is a good barometer to remind you that magic is magical at times. Also unlike Kei is extremely easy-going Nao gives and good as she gets.
The rest of the cast helps round things out nicely. There is a good mixture of magical entities and practitioners like Makoto’s troublesome sister Akane or the distinctly supernatural Harbinger of Spring. There are also just the regular folks in town just to remind you that this is not just a world of magic but actually a world where witches are the exception not the rule. It lets Flying Witch have a foot in both worlds and tells stories in either or both without breaking a sweat.
This is just an easy breezy series that is a wonderfully relaxing series to read before bed or to unwind after work. The manga helps give it a little spark so it is not utterly mundane. It is the meditative atmosphere of the countryside with the whimsical joy of magic. It is both a stimulant and a relaxant. Sort of the Irish coffee of manga. If that sounds good then pull up a chair and relax with Flying Witch.